MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to retain the one-meter physical distancing among commuters in public transportation, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced Saturday.
"Ang desisyon po ng Presidente, mananatili po ang one-meter social distancing sa pampublikong transportasyon na sasamahan ng pagsusuot ng mask, face shield (The decision of the President is that the one-meter social distancing will stay in public transportations, which include the wearing of mask and face shield)," Roque said in an interview over state-run PTV 4.
Roque said health and safety protocols would also be in place, including the "no speaking, no eating" rule inside a public utility vehicle.
The one-meter physical distancing in public transport was reduced to 0.75 meters beginning Sept. 14 to increase passenger capacity to help revive the economy.
It was supposed to be reduced further to 0.5 meters (approximately 1.8 feet) on Sept. 28 and 0.3 meters starting October 12.
However, it was suspended following calls from experts who warned of increased risk of coronavirus disease transmission.
Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said it would “aggressively comply and strictly enforce” the President's decision, noting that it would equate to less than half of the capacity of most public utility vehicles (PUV).
“The President has spoken. We shall aggressively comply and strictly enforce the 1-meter physical distancing in all public transport as envisioned and mandated,” DOTr Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope Libiran said in a message to reporters.
Following the resumption of public transportation in general community quarantine areas in June, most PUVs such as jeepneys, buses, and UV Express followed a 50-percent maximum passenger capacity (MPC) or a ‘one-seat-apart’ rule, which Libiran said is not equal to one-meter physical distancing.
She noted, however, that one-meter distancing was strictly enforced in railways and maritime transportation.
“Walang sense kung hahayaan nating one seat apart lang sa PUVs pero sa tren at barko, one-meter physical distancing (There’s no sense if we let PUVs enforce the one-seat-apart rule but for trains and ships, one-meter physical distancing),” Libiran said.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), she said, will soon release guidelines on the strict implementation of the one-meter distancing in PUVs to be enforced by several law enforcement groups.
“We will aggressively comply and strictly enforce the 1-meter physical distancing in all public transport in coordination with the PNP (Philippine National Police) and I-ACT composed of LTFRB, LTO (Land Transportation Office), MMDA (Metropolitan Manila Development Authority) and HPG (PNP-Highway Patrol Group),” Libiran said. (PNA)